CT lung cancer screening produced lung cancer-specific survival over 80% in the most recent data from the landmark I-ELCAP study, a remarkable testament to the effectiveness of screening.
The findings were published this week in Radiology from I-ELCAP, one of the first large-scale CT lung screening trials, and are the latest in a series of studies pointing to lung screening’s benefits. The findings were originally presented at RSNA 2022.
The I-ELCAP study is ongoing and has enrolled 89k participants at over 80 sites worldwide from 1992-2022 who have been exposed to tobacco smoke and who received annual low-dose CT (≤ 3mGy) scans. Periodic I-ELCAP follow-up studies have documented the survival rates of those whose cancers were detected with LDCT, and the new numbers offer a 20-year follow-up, finding:
- Primary lung cancers were detected on LDCT in 1,257 individuals who had lung cancer-specific survival of 81%, matching the 10-year survival rate of 81%
- 1,017 patients with clinical stage I lung cancer underwent surgical resection and saw a lung cancer-specific survival rate of 87%
- The I-ELCAP survival rate is much higher than another landmark screening study, NLST, in which it was 73% for stage I cancer at 10 years
- Lung cancer-specific survival hit a plateau after 10 years of follow-up, at a cure rate of about 80%
I-ELCAP is unique for a variety of reasons, one of which is that it continues to screen people beyond a baseline scan and 2-3 annual follow-up rounds – perhaps the reason for its higher survival rate relative to NLST.
- It also has included people who were exposed to tobacco smoke but who weren’t necessarily smokers – an important distinction in the debate over how broad to expand lung screening criteria.
The findings come as CT lung cancer screening is generating growing momentum. Studies this year from Germany, Taiwan, and Hungary have demonstrated screening’s value, and several countries are ramping up national population-based screening programs.
The 20-year I-ELCAP data show that CT lung cancer screening works if you can get people to do it. But achieving survival rates over 80% also requires work on the part of healthcare providers, in terms of defined protocols for working up findings, data management for screening programs, and patient outreach to ensure adherence to annual screening. Fortunately, I-ELCAP offers a model for how it’s done.